A Journal

"I'm going to come back to West Virginia when this is over. There's something ancient and deeply-rooted in my soul. I like to think that I have left my ghost up one of those hollows, and I'll never really be able to leave for good until I find it. And I don't want to look for it, because I might find it and have to leave".----Breece D'J Pancake, in a letter to his mother. 

Rae Gouirand  


Milk Glass


At the start of September everything clouds over,
screens breathe rain & the thrum


of ozone rising from pelted asphalt. Everything’s
got a little dust on it; everything old

newly belongs. What gets me about love is how
it never cleanly divides us


separate from the rest. Glass is a liquid—look
it up. Even the vintage stuff you like


to drink from when folks show unannounced
fastens around: hand form. Like


a cloud. Like a cloud that appears. We get
used to hard edges on our lips.




On Remembering


It’s hard not to wonder when I was first told—
by whom, in what tone of voice—I was loved.


I want to know, and this is my way of praying.
I want to fill the open space I carry with


more than I understand now. A friend returns
that right and certain do not mean the same.


It’s a complex question, and increasingly
hard to explain, as the words themselves


mean more, then less—and telling you
sometimes feels like a promise no one


will ever match me in this. That I will never
voice this piece again, swear love this once.


It’s not an answer I desire so much as
a remembering. A combing of something


hard out from shadows with my hands
if only for the feeling of it under these two


I know all my questions through, the surest
thing they find their own forms, telling.





Of course we begin away from light,
on the inside of things,

tucked into muscle & fluid—of course
we must take form

to meet the orbs above us, the day
that comes through.

Had I but been there at the time
you first made your voice—

to let words for your new ears,
to lay lip to forehead, to

tell you light exists to be found.
That life exists to be

entered into. That light bears touch.
That nothing real is so clear

as this clarity in clarity, this reality
in day stream, this voice

saying I want to tell you something—
your form is known, your

brow seen, your hand in the hand
of the moment, that

the most honest call you can make
is for the illuminating of

a lamp at night, that you are born
and meant to ask.

I don't keep very much stuff around, but I have not parted with a single handwritten thing anyone has given me in close to twenty years--birthday cards, love letters, postcards, sticky notes. I file all of it away in my journals (which I've kept for roughly as long) so that whenever I look back at my own written accounts of my life in time I can revisit those hands and the things they've carried into my life. 


Rae Gouirand’s first collection of poetry, Open Winter, was selected by Elaine Equi for the 2011 Bellday Prize, won a 2012 Independent Publisher Book Award and the 2012 Eric Hoffer Book Award, and was a finalist for the Montaigne Medal, the Audre Lorde Award, and the California Book Award for poetry. Her poems and essays have appeared most recently in American Poetry ReviewVOLTNew SouthThe BrooklynerPANKGertrude,Handsome, and The Gay and Lesbian Review Worldwide. An adjunct lecturer in the Department of English at UC-Davis, she teaches a number of longrunning workshops in poetry and prose online and throughout California’s Central Valley (